English Electric Co. Stafford Tanks on Cannock Chase

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Date:20th of August 1942

Description:Pictured above is Brigadier-General G M Barnes, Assistant Chief of Ordinance, US Army with members of the Special American Mission accompanied by Major-General Crawford of the Ministry of Supply and British Army Officers attached to the US Army, Mr G Nelson (later Sir George Nelson) Chairman and Managing Director of the English Electric Company who after inspecting the Armoured Vehicle factory were conveyed in “Covenanter” tanks to the tank testing ground on Cannock Chase.

During World War II, the English Electric Co. Ltd placed its accumulated experience and engineering organisation at the disposal of the Government and manufactured equipment that would be vital to the defence programme.

The Stafford factory was renowned for its electrical products including generators, transformers and switchgear and throughout the war years continued to receive contracts for many of these items. In addition the factory became involved in the production of parts and final assembly of Armoured Vehicles which included the Covenanter, Centaur, Comet and Cromwell tanks. Completed tanks were driven or taken to the testing ground created on Cannock Chase.

The factory received its first (tank) contract on 29 September 1939 for 100 hulls, suspensions and final drives for tanks of the light-cruiser type weighing 17 tons and known later as “Covenanter”, the contract included complete assembly of the tanks which were each driven by 300 H.P. 12 cylinder petrol engine and armed with a 2-pounder gun and machine gun. By February 1940 the Company was authorised to extend the buildings to provide a production capacity for 500 tanks at the rate of 15 per week. The production of tanks evolved as with the “Centaur” which had heavier armour, it weighed 27 tons and carrying a 6–pounder gun.

In addition to the tanks many other contracts were received and the following items (not exhaustive) provide a snapshot of the important work carried out to assist with the war effort:-
One contract was for 1,000.000 plugs for Hand Grenades at the rate of 50,000 per week and for 2,900.000 Tail Units for Mortar Bombs also at the rate of 50,000 per week. Contracts were received for machining the Castings for Heavy Aircraft Bombs, Generators and Indicators for Aircraft Engine Speed Indicator Sets, 2,000 Variation Setting Correctors, 4,000 Pilot’s Repeater Compasses and 9,200 Repeater Motors. Contracts were also received for Meters and other Precision Instruments, Lamps for searchlights, 165,000 Transformers for Radio Communication, Transformers for Radio Location (Radar), Transformers for use in combating the VI menace, Transformers for use in electrical systems for remote control for naval guns, Course Setting Bombsights, Drive Motors for Bombsights, Circuit Breakers for Magnetic Mine Sweeping Service and Electrical Propulsion equipment for U Class Submarines.

Contracts arrived from many organisations including the Air Ministry, Admiralty, CEGB, Ministry of Defence, BBC and London Transport who required over 9 miles of Overhead Busbar equipment for unfinished underground railway extensions converted into a factory producing delicate essential components for machine tools. Contracts were also received from overseas for electrical equipment from the USSR for Switchgear Installations for 2 steam power stations, for Mercury Arc Rectifier equipment for a Rolling Mill in India, for Malta Dockyard and for a Dockyard in Sydney, Australia.

During the war years important visitors toured the factory and many of them would be taken to the testing ground on Cannock Chase to watch tanks being put through their paces. In 1940 the Duke of Kent visited, in 1941 General Charles de Gaulle and in 1942 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. In addition there were Ambassadors who visited including those representing Brazil, South Africa, Poland, USA, Canada, Turkey, Iraq, China, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand.

Acknowledgement: The War Diary of The English Electric Company Ltd. 1938 – 1945.

Additional information:
Siemens Brothers purchased the land in 1901 and built the factory and offices which were ready to start production in 1903. In 1918 Siemens merged with several companies, including Dick, Kerr and Co., to become the English Electric Co. Two years later in 1920, The English Electric Co bought the Stafford Works. The English Electric Co merged with GEC (The General Electric Company) during 1968 and the Lichfield Road Site became part of GEC Power Engineering Ltd. On 22 March 1989 became part of GEC ALSTHOM, an Anglo French Joint Venture. On 22 June 1998 became part of ALSTOM with global HQ in Paris and to date (March 2014) continues to be part of the ALSTOM Group.

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Creators: English Electric Co. - Creator

Image courtesy of: Mr Bob Metcalfe

Donor ref:BM-223 (192/27040)

Source: Mr Bob Metcalfe

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